Thursday, May 1, 2008

HotT: an easy introduction to fantasy war gaming

I flirted briefly…. with the idea of a Warhammer Fantasy army. Why? The beautiful GW miniatures, and the sniff of a rules set that looked like it might take me back to those good old 70's war gaming values: I still harbour the fondest memories of war gaming the way it used to be (but of course we always do.. it's a shame that the 'good old days' rarely ever are.)

I took advantage of the opportunity to buy some second hand figures for a Tomb Kings' army at a fraction of their new cost, and even picked up a copy of the newest rules set in soft cover form from someone who had bought the latest WFB boxed set. Even now I read those WFB battle reports in White Dwarf, salivating at the appearance of the multitude of GW figures populating a beautifully set up table.

However, at my age I've learned to be realistic. I rarely get to either of our local war games clubs to play games, and that's where I'd need to go to play WFB (because that's where the players are), since my own local war games opponents just don't play WFB. What they do play though is HotT (Hordes of the Things) - the fantasy version of the DBA rules. Now this is also familiar territory for me; I started playing WRG rules back in the days of 3rd edition Ancients, and have grown up/cut my teeth on their rules systems. I did give away the DBM system a number of years ago when I discovered rules sets like Volley and Bayonet and Spearhead that finally allowed me to play periods in a way that I'd only ever dreamed of before.

But in the meantime, I have begun to feed a long dormant desire to play fantasy war games using HotT. I can vividly remember several of my very long time gaming friends playing Lord Of The Rings games way back, using home grown rules, and piles of Airfix plastics converted for the purpose. What’s more, I have this feeling that HotT will allow many other 'gamers to feed their own fantasy war games desires as well.

In 5 weeks I have been able to paint up two complete HotT armies: 'Lost World's, and 'Mediaeval Chaos', and very pleased I am with the results. The armies aren't exactly world beaters in terms of effectiveness, but there's one thing I have learned after reading White Dwarf for 7 years: theme is important. My HotT armies are themed around specific visions (not original I hasten to add, my themes are derived from others' fertile imaginations), and they are an absolute joy to field. The Chaos army uses a White Dwarf inspired painting theme that has come up a little short in the execution department, but still looks great to my eyes. The Lost Worlds army is an eye catcher, begun with a self-set challenge to create an interesting army using cheap plastic toys (hence the dinosaurs, and the gorilla).

But that's another wonderful aspect of the HotT system. While sample army lists are derived from the enormous range of fantasy literature available in bookstores, the system allows the imagination to go wild while governed only by composition guidelines the sole purpose of which is to ensure playable balanced games.

I have discovered that this tool unleashes powerful imagination as I have watched boys develop their own interpretations on the fantasy themes created by writers over the past decades. For my part my third HotT army, a Victorian Sci-Fi army, is already in gestation: 300 years ago claims that I had visions of steam driven behemoths might have lead to my incarceration. Today, my wife just smiles quietly and waits for me to return home with another box of plastic soldiers.

I may well go back to WFB: I still like those old-fashioned rules approaches, and I do still adore the GW figures. But in the meantime I have seen HotT generate enthusiasm and excitement in young minds (and in this not so young one as well!!). It has given me an easy introduction to fantasy war-gaming, that'll do for a start.

Here are two photos of elements from my recently completed Chaos army: a Dragon, and several bases of Chaos knights, seen here in their second action of the day when a few of us recently got together for a day of DBA and HotT games.

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